Thursday, December 29, 2016

How We Spent 2016: By The Numbers

• 312 cyclists rode 16 or 40 miles on the Schuylkill River Trail during Ride for the River.

• 66 volunteers removed over 60 bags of trash from the Schuylkill River Trail during the Earth Day SPREEkend
• 160 children learned about the Schuylkill River in our new Schuylkill Explorers program

$4,711 raised for the trail through the sale of Sly Fox Brewery's SRT Ale from April
through September, bringing to almost $9,000 the total raised over two years.

• 119 attendees at our first Evening for the Schuylkill River annual dinner

• 98 original works exhibited in the 13th Annual Scenes of the Schuylkill Art Show 

• 1,000+ people who viewed the NPS traveling art quilt exhibit, "Piecing Together a Changing Planet," when we hosted it in October.

• 95 Pedal and Paddlers who joined one of our six events

• 1-mile interpretive loop trail created in Riverfront Park by the new Pottstown RiverWalk

• $278,832 awarded in Schuylkill River Restoration Fund Grants to 8 Projects that improve river water quality.
• 20 cultural interpretive signs installed along the Schuylkill River Trail in Manayunk and Berks County

• 60 underserved teens from Philadelphia and Schuylkill Counties engaged in our Student Outdoor Leadership Odyssey
• 205 Paddlers from 8 states and New Zealand in the 18th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn including a record 79 who made the full 112-mile paddle

• 25 Girl Scouts from 3 troops who earned our Schuylkill River Heritage Area patch

 • 18 water trail section maps in "A Paddler's Guide to the Schuylkill River," released in December.

• 10 LED lights installed along the trail in Reading, improving safety

• 51 partners and supporters provided feedback on our new Management Action Plan draft at 3 public meetings

• 2 Adopt-a-Trail participants added in Berks County: Children's Home of Reading and Target Stores.
And Finally:

• $589.9 million in annual Economic Impact to the region, according to a new study that also found that the Heritage Area supports 6,134 jobs and generates $37.7 million in state and local tax revenue, primarily as a result of tourism related activities.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Look Back on How We Spent 2016

2016 was a year to remember: we saw our events grow in popularity and introduced new events. Here's a month by month look back on some of our highlights for the year.

 January & February

 Last January and February, we were pleased to bring a selection of 16 pieces of art from our 2015 Scenes of the Schuylkill art show to Valley Forge National Historical Park. The exhibit met with such a positive response that we recently installed it for a second time with art from our 2016 Scenes of the Schuylkill. That show will be up through Jan. 27, 2017.
March: An Evening for the Schuylkill River
Embarking on what we hope will become a yearly tradition, we hosted a dinner that was at once a fundraiser and a celebration of the Schuylkill River. Over 100 of our members, partners and supporters attended An Evening for the Schuylkill River at Sunnybrook Ballroom, enjoying delicious food, fun raffle items and great music. We recognized two of our key partners, PA DCNR Secretary Cindy Dunn and the management of Exelon Generation. We plan to carry on this successful event, moving to the Abraham Lincoln Hotel in Reading this March.
April: SRT Ale Returns with the SPREEkend and...
We partnered with Sly Fox Brewery to celebrate the return of SRT Ale with a full-slate of activities over Earth Day weekend dubbed the SPREEkend. A series of trail cleanups, a group kayak paddle, a popular 50K Schuylkill River Trail Relay Race, and an incredibly fun Spreekend Festival were among the highlights. Most notably, a total of 66 volunteers assisted in three trail widening and cleanup activities, removing over 60 bags of trash and working a combined 132 hours. And two other Spreekend cleanups were held in Phoenixville and Norristown in which another 80 volunteers participated.

...A New Trail Head

On a rainy April day we gathered with Schuylkill County officials to cut the ribbon on the new Auburn Trailhead, which features benches, signs, and parking for 15 cars. It is an access point for a 0.8 mile section f the Schuylkill River Trail and a new water trail landing.

May: Pottstown RiverWalk and...

We cut the ribbon on our long-awaited Pottstown RiverWalk, a new recreational and educational amenity at Riverfront Park that creates a one-mile loop through a wooded area and along the river. It is highlighted by a series of interpretive signs focusing on the region's natural environment.

... a New Economic Impact Study
We also released the results of a new Economic Impact Study that found the historic and natural features of the Schuylkill River Heritage Area annually generate $589.9 million in economic impact for the Schuylkill River Region. The findings came from analysis by Tripp Umbach, a nationally recognized consulting firm, which also found that the Heritage Area supports 6,134 jobs and generates $37.7 million in state and local tax revenue, primarily as a result of tourism related activities.
  June: 18th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn

During the 18th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn we took 205 paddlers down the river, with a record breaking 79 making the full trip from rural Schuylkill Haven to Philadelphia's Boathouse Row. Sojourners came from nine states and New Zealand. Our program theme celebrated the Centennial of the National Park Service. We also had our first Sojourn Steward on board. Bradley Maule was brought on by the Schuylkill Action Network to photo document his trip and litter problem areas.

 July: Schuylkill Explorers and...

We hired a new education coordinator, Sarah Crothers, who developed the Schuylkill Explorers program to engage children in hands-on learning about the river and the importance of watershed conservation. The program was offered to area summer camps and student groups over the course of the summer, helping over 160 students foster an appreciation for nature.

 ...A New Strategic Plan
Throughout the year, we worked with consultants Schultz & Williams to develop a new Strategic Plan that will lead our organization over the next decade. In July, we sought input from the public at three meetings in Schuylkill Haven, Reading and Manayunk that were well attended and produced valuable feedback. The new plan is expected to be approved next year, and will guide us as we refocus our efforts on connecting people to the Schuylkill River.

August: Pedal & Paddles and...

Over the course of the summer we held a total of six Pedal & Paddles that took 95 people on bike rides along the Schuylkill River Trail and kayak trips on the river and a tour of a historic site. This year, in addition to touring Historic Morlatton Village, we also took one group to Lock 60 of the Schuylkill Canal. Another group participated in a water quality event that included water testing and a discussion on river health.

 ...Schuylkill County Initiatives

We welcomed our newest VISTA worker, Tiara Campbell. Tiara will be serving for one year as our Trail Sustainability Coordinator. Her tasks include starting a Heritage Corps trail sustainability and job training program and establishing a community garden initiative in Schuylkill County. Learn more about Tiara's initiatives
September: Ride for the River and...

On September 24 we debuted Ride for the River, a bike ride along the Pottstown-to-Reading section of the Schuylkill River Trail that attracted over 300 cyclists who rode a 16- or 40-mile route. The ride began and ended at the Sly Fox Can Jam Festival, where Sly Fox Brewing Company presented us with a check for $4,711 to benefit the Schuylkill River Trail. The money was culled from the sale of SRT Ale, bringing to almost $9,000 the funds raised over two years from the "Ale for the Trail."

...Restoration Fund Grant Awards

We distributed Schuylkill River Restoration Fund grant awards totaling $278,832 to eight projects that will improve water quality in the river and its tributaries. Since being established in 2006, the fund has distributed over $2.7 million--and leveraged another $4.7 million--for 82 projects that protect and restore the Schuylkill River.
October: A Quilt Exhibit

We were pleased to host "Piecing Together a Changing Planet," a National Park Service traveling exhibition of art quilts themed around climate change. Over 1,000 people viewed these unique works of art while the show was on display at Montgomery County Community College west campus gallery. This exceptional exhibit has been traveling to 10 different National Parks and partner sites since 2014.

November: A Book Signing and...

We regretfully bid farewell to our Executive Director Silas Chamberlin who stepped down in October to accept another position. However, he returned in November for a lecture and book signing for his new book, "On the Trail: A History of American Hiking." About 40 people came out to learn about the fascinating history of trails and hiking.

...13th Annual Scenes of the Schuylkill

Our Scenes of the Schuylkill Art Show entered its 13th year in November, with a record number of artworks--98 original pieces of regional art inspired by the Schuylkill River region. This year, we were pleased to have as our juror Carrie Robbins, Curator/Academic Liaison for Art & Artifacts, Special Collections and lecturer, Department of History of Art at Bryn Mawr College. Robbins selected the winning entries from 127 submissions.

December: New Trail Lights

Work crews installed a series of LED lights along the Thun Section of the trail between Old Wyomissing Road and the Reading Area Community College pedestrian bridge. The 10 lights replace existing solar lights that were no longer functioning properly. The new LED lights improve visibility and safety for the many people who use that section of trail after dark to commute to and from Reading.

What else we did

Friday, December 2, 2016

Our New Water Trail Guide is Now Available!

Several years in the making, the brand new A Paddler's Guide to the Schuylkill River is now available for purchase exclusively through the Schuylkill River Heritage Area. This comprehensive Guide, printed on waterproof, highly-durable synthetic stock, was written and designed to help the first-time visitor or the seasoned Schuylkill veteran discover, explore, and enjoy this remarkable river and its riverside communities and attractions. Get your copy today! All this for only $40.00 (includes PA sales tax)! 10% discount for SRHA members*.

Fold-out table on inside front cover gives at-a-glance info on landings

The Guide Booklet:
• 7” wide x 12.25” high (when closed)   
• Fold-out table on inside front cover: “Landings: River Access, Amenities & Services” provides details about all of the water trail’s 38 official landings ... all in one place.
• Tabbed chapters: “Welcome/Schuylkill Today” (2 pages) is a brief look at both the history of the Schuylkill River and its current value to and impact on its residents and visitors; “Trip Planner” (12 pages) is a section-by-section narrative and photographic overview that describes the “personality” of each section of the water trail; “Have a Safe Trip” (4 pages) is a thorough primer on the safety issues and hazards of paddling the Schuylkill River and others like it; and “Field Guide” (2-1/3 pages) celebrates the rebirth of this nearly-dead river with photos and illustrations of the biodiversity that once-again thrives here. 
• Glued, dimensional pocket on inside-back cover holds the 18 maps.
• Velcro-tab closures “lock” maps in place when not in use.  
Pocket on inside back cover holds the 18 maps
The 18 Tri-Fold Maps:
• 20.125” wide x 12” high (fully-opened); 6.75” x 12” high (when folded into 3 panels)
Tri-fold maps include points of interest, section maps and waypoints
• “Smell the Roses” pages (left panel): Text, photos, illustrations, and contact/visitor information are provided for select points-of-interest in each section. “Sidebars” tell the stories that have shaped the Schuylkill River watershed and beyond.  
• Section Maps (center panel): Features include Landings; Rapids; Route Guidance; River Miles; Cautions; Portages; Tributaries; Bridges; Dams/Dam Remnants; Compass/Flow Arrows; Highways/Roads/Streets; “Shuttle Roads;” USGS Gauges; Hospitals/Urgent Care; Hiking/Multi-Purpose Trails; Points-of-Interest; Parking; Restrooms; Drinking Water; Picnic facilities; Food/Grocery/Restaurant services; Lodging; ATMs; Canoe/Kayak Rental; 3D shaded-relief base layer; and much more).    
• Waypoints pages (right panel): These pages include “Section Specs” (River Miles, Travel Time, Skills Rating, “Minimum” and “Good” Water Levels, and relevant USGS Gauges); all the landmarks along the route (Landings, Bridges, Tributaries, etc.); enlarged “action maps” and text guidance through the more difficult river features; and photos, quotes, and illustrations that add to the story of that section of river).
Special Map Features:
• “Paddler-View” Orientation: All maps read from the bottom of the page to the top, regardless of the compass direction of the river’s flow. “North” icons show the map’s compass rotation. “Flow” icons remind the viewer of the upward flow of the river on the maps.
• Scale: 2 inches = 1 mile. Large scale for more river details
• Landing Amenities and Services Boxes: Each Landing has its own box of icons showing the amenities and services within 0.5 mile of landing and/or notes that point out the nearest amenities and services between 0.5 and 5.0 miles away. Also, additional notes share other important landing-related information. 
*Discount is for current Schuylkill River Heritage Area members. Please use discount code srhamember at checkout. Not sure if your membership is up to date? Call us at 484-945-0200.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Highlights from Ride for the River

On September 24, we teamed up with Sly Fox Brewing Company to host Ride for the River, a bike ride that took place on the Schuylkill River Trail while also benefiting the Schuylkill River Trail and gets people out on the trail. We had an amazing turnout, with over 300 cyclists participating in either a 16 or 40 mile ride. In addition to riding along a beautiful section of the trail, participants ended the day at  the Sly Fox Can Jam Festival with free live music, great food and, of course, Sly Fox beer! Here are some of the highlights.

We had great volunteers:
We assembled an incredible team of volunteers who kept the ride running smoothly all day long. They managed to keep check-in lines moving quickly, assisted with parking, helped cyclists through road crossings and refilled snacks at rest stops. We also had cyclists from the Bike Sport/Sly Fox racing team providing ride support throughout the day, and we were fortunate to have Tri County Bicycles offering free bike safety checks before the rides.

A rainy start but a pleasant ride:
Not sure if you can see the rain drops in the photo below, but I hope you can see the smiles. Just as participants lined up for the first ride (the 40-mile round trip ride to Reading and back) they were caught up in a sudden cloud burst. Fortunately, the rain stopped fairly quickly, but not before many riders were drenched. No matter, people maintained their good spirits and enjoyed the ride.  

A beautiful trail:
Many of the participants told us how much they enjoyed riding on the Pottstown-to-Reading section of the the Schuylkill River Trail. We were pleased to hear that. This is a section of the Schuylkill River Trail that our organization--the Schuylkill River Heritage Area--owns and maintains. We know it is among the most scenic sections of the trail, and we were happy to be able to introduce more people to it through Ride for the River.

It supported the Schuylkill River Trail:
In 2015 the SRT was named the Best Urban Trail in America by USA Today.  The proceeds from Ride for the River will enable us to make the trail even better.

The fun continued at the Sly Fox Can Jam Festival: All participants received a voucher for free Sly Fox beer and food at the Can Jam Festival. Many stayed to listen to the terrific live bands that played throughout the day.

We accepted a check from Sly Fox Brewery: A portion of the proceeds from Sly Fox's seasonal SRT Ale goes to support the Schuylkill River Trail. At the Can Jam Festival, Brew Master Brian O'Reilly presented our Executive Director Silas Chamberlin with a check for $4,711. We are grateful to Sly Fox for this very generous donation and we extend our thanks to everyone who drank SRT Ale this summer! This marks the second year in a row that Sly Fox Brewery has presented us with over $4,000 for the trail. That money goes toward our Safe Crossing program to make road crossings along the trail safer for trail users.

We raffled off a kayak!
Our goal in organizing Ride for the River is to help connect people to the Schuylkill River. A bike ride along the river is a great way to experience the beauty of this region. And so is kayaking! We raffled off a bright-red Emotion kayak throughout the Can Jam Festival. Congratulations to Rose Walters, whose name was chosen randomly from hundreds of raffle tickets at the festival. We wish her many happy hours paddling on the river!

We can't wait to do it again next year.
We surveyed ride participants and asked them if they would be likely to participate in Ride for the River next year. The vast majority, 95 percent, answered affirmatively. Many of them also gave us tips on what they'd like to see us add in coming years. We intend to take that advice to heart, and make this an even better ride next year!

Visit our website to learn more.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Highlights from the 18th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn

The annual Schuylkill River Sojourn is, hands down, the most popular event we host. Our 18th Sojourn, held from June 4-10, 2016, was no exception. We had a great group of paddlers, a record number (79) of whom made the full 112-mile, week long journey from rural Schuylkill Haven to the urban waters of Philadelphia. For the 2nd consecutive year, we also filled each day with the maximum number of boats on the river (about 100-120). All together, 205 people signed on to do all or part of the trip. Virtually all of them left with a greater appreciation for the river, and a new group of paddling friends. It was an adventure filled week. We were fortunate to be accompanied by Sojourn Steward Bradley Maule. Check out his blog here at 

Here are a few of the highlights from the 18th Annual Sojourn:

Friday June 3

The fun starts before the sojourn even begins. Sojourners check in at Schuylkill Haven Island Park and many camp out there the evening before the event begins. Once again this year restored steam Locomotive 113 arrived on the tracks behind the park. Campers were invited to climb aboard and learn more about this impressive engine that was fired with anthracite coal.

Day 1, Saturday June 4:  

Boats lined up before the launch
Going through the Chutes
When120 colorful kayaks hit the water, it's impressive. That's why people line up along bridges and roadsides around Schuylkill Haven to watch and wave--a truly welcome sight for the sojourners. The river along this early part of the trip is windy and narrow, with a very different character than it has in Philadelphia. Luckily, we have great guides and safety boaters who can help out novice paddlers when they get stuck in shallow areas (like me maybe).  Our program theme for the trip celebrated the Centennial of the National Park Service.We were joined on the water by Frank Hays, NPS associate regional director for resources, who gave a brief overview of the NPS Centennial at lunch. After lunch, we headed for the thrill of the day: paddling The Chutes--a bridge abutment that forms a rush of white water. Only four people fell in and, I'm happy to report, I wasn't one of them. The day ended in Port Clinton, where fellow sojourner John Lysaght spoke to a standing room only crowd about his adventures as a thru hiker on the Appalachian Trail.
Frank Hays' lunch presentation
Thru hiker John Lysaght





Day 2, Sunday June 5: 

Paddling from Port Clinton to Muhlenberg Township is among the longest sojourn days, totaling 18.5 miles. At the lunch stop, sojourners were happy to kick back and listen to singer, songwriter  Haley Sheeler, whose music has become an annual highlight. Sojourners then paddled to the beautiful Jim Dietrich Park, in Muhlenberg Twp., where a drenching downpour struck just as they were coming off the water. After drying off and eating a delicious Mexican dinner, they set up camp around the park's scenic barn and ended the evening with an informative talk by Independence National Park Ranger Matt Ifill on NPS history.

Day 3, Monday June 6 

Not all the fun on the sojourn happens on the water. Monday has been designated Crazy Hat Day by the sojourners and each year we have more crazy hats. The sojourners like to wear their hats while navigating Kelly's Rapids, located just outside of reading--one of the most popular river features. At lunch, we heard a presentation on river snorkeling, by snorkeling enthusiast Kieth Williams of Northbay Adventure. The evening campsite, at Allegheny Aqueduct Park, featured a Dutch Oven cooking demonstration by Randy "Splatterdab" Brown. The lemon cake and biscuits he and his wife baked were the perfect end of day snacks.

 Day 4, Tuesday June 7:

Pottstown's Riverfront Park

Leaving Gibraltar
This day is short and sweet--only 13.8 miles, with some striking scenery. The lunch stop is at Historic Morlatton Village, with fried chicken on the menu--a guilty pleasure for the the hard paddling sojourners. While they enjoyed Rita's water ice for dessert, they heard a presentation on the region's iron and steel heritage. The second half of the day went quickly and they arrived at Pottstown's Riverfront Park with plenty of time to shower in our offices before dinner. The evening ended with a band playing music by the river and a selection of short films from Pottstown's In Focus Film Festival.
Morlatton Village lunch stop

Day 5, Wednesday June 8:  

Leaving Pottstown
 Unfortunately, we had to forego the annual tradition of locking through the restored Lock 60 because the lock was undergoing repairs. But Wednesday turned out to be an eventful day anyway.  For one thing, a sudden, violent storm overtook the sojourners just after they pulled into a water stop in Linfield. They crammed together for cover under a small pavilion. At lunch they were welcomed at Royersford's Victory Park where they listened to an entertaining talk about Valley Forge National Historical Park by Ranger Bill Troppman. They finished the long 17.8 mile paddle at Lock 60, where they ate a spaghetti dinner and watched a slideshow on the NPS Centennial-themed Philadelphia Flower Show. While they settled in at the park, three of our staff members went to the Union League in Philadelphia where our former Executive Director Kurt Zwikl was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. Earlier that day, our Executive Director Silas Chamberlin gave the keynote address for the Pennsylvania Statewide Heritage Conference in Lewisburg.
Waiting out the storm under a pavilion
At the Union League

Day 6, Thursday June 9: 

Sojourners paused for a group photo in the canal before their journey to West Conshohocken. Here's what it looked like when the 112 boats launched down the canal:

Sojourners stopped at Valley Forge National Historical Park for lunch, where Interim Park Superintendent Patrick Madden spoke about the park's centennial programs.Once again this year, we were accompanied on the water by the fun-loving Norristown Boat Club. In the evening, after a delicious dinner of barbeque ribs and chicken, sojourners heard a talk from our terrific Sojourn Steward Brad Maule, who spent the week photo documenting litter issues, and produced excellent nightly blogs that gave a great recap of each day of the sojourn. Check out his website phillyskyline.com to read about the sojourn and see his beautiful pictures.

Day 7, Friday June 10:  

The last of the sojourners pose for a final photo in Philadelphia
 The 17th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn ended as always at Boathouse Row. Paddlers stopped for lunch at the historic Philadelphia Canoe Club where they got to gaze at some beautiful wooden canoes and hear a presentation from Fairmount Water. Back on the water, they were joined by the Philadelphia Flying Phoenix Dragon Boat Team.
To learn more about the sojourn or to sign up for our email updates visit our website at